81935 - Aesthetics for the City

Academic Year 2021/2022

  • Teaching Mode: Traditional lectures
  • Campus: Bologna
  • Corso: Second cycle degree programme (LM) in Advanced Design (cod. 9256)

Learning outcomes

The subject of the course is the study of phenomena such as the "anesthetization of everyday life", "widespread aesthetics", the "aesthetics of goods" and of their places, the "industrial arts", and the role of the aesthetic-cultural component in urban analysis and transformation. At the end of the course the student becomes able to: practice the knowledge of the main philosophical and social elaborations on the contemporary city and on the contemporary images, cultures and urban lifeforms; pay particular attention to the contribution that the various forms of expression have provided to the formulation of the experience of places and the understanding of urban phenomena; critically read and analyze the urban landscape and complex sites within it.

Course contents

The course focuses on the conceptual frameworks to define urban aesthetics starting from some exemplary theoretical and descriptive constructs of individual cities, metropolises or megacities and, in the same perspective, deepens a series of elements and categories for the experience and analysis of the city, its forms and cultures. During the course, there are two to three intermediate exercises, if possible in the field, and a final exercise, which will use different media, such as writing, video, photos, drawing, depending on the opportunity. The lessons and exercises are divided into ten thematic blocks, which are indicated below with the bibliography which follows:

1. Introduction to the course.
What is aesthetics? How can aesthetics be defined for the city?
What do "dwelling" and "building" mean? The perspectives of Richard Sennett and Giorgio Agamben.

Design and services I: problems and transformations in the transition to services and the city; what does it mean today in the face of major transformations (pandemic, climate change, etc.) to "reverse the course".

Images of cities: the myth of transparency and the dysfunctionality of the hyperfunctional in Playtime by Jacques Tati.

2. Guidelines for the aesthetics of the city:
a. Georg Simmel, Metropolis and the Life of the Spirit
b. Walter Benjamin, Paris, the capital of the 19th century
c. Siegfried Kracauer, From the window

to reverse course II:
- discussion of the concepts of Institution and Artificial Intelligence/Power of Algorithms

3.Mental landscape (scapes, augmented reality, imaginary) and Exercises in estrangement/change of point of view in urban space (returning to the gaze of the child who sees a thing/place for the first time; the gaze of the infra-ordinary, attention to what is happening in the background, i.e. when nothing is "happening"; drifting, going without knowing where, letting oneself be carried away by chance; parenthesis: epoché).

Images of the city: M. Smargiassi, Degradation and decorum in urban photography.

4. Elements and categories of city aesthetics: the window, the shop window, the wall, the underpass, the street, the bridge and the door.
City images: the cinema of the big city, Berlin. Symphony of a great city by Walter Ruttmann and René Clair, Paris qui dort.
Field exercise I.

5. Elements of the city: the square and the hyper-place (the Times Square case).
City images: the cinema of the big city, Dziga Vertov, The man with the camera and Alberto Cavalcanti, Rien que les heures.
Field exercise II.

6. Categories for the aesthetics of the city: walking. Walkscapes: Dadaist visit, surrealist walking, letriste and situationist drift. Slowing of perception, generative grammar of the legs and world as an apparition.
City images: Jirō Taniguchi, The man who walks.

7. Elements of the city: the arcades. Uniqueness of Bologna? Heterotopia and spatial and power relations.
Images of the city: Vision, analysis and commentary on Renzo Renzi, Guide for walking in the shade.

8. Key categories of service desing III: design and project.
City images: James Ballard's High Rise and Ben Wheatley's High Rise.
Field exercise III.

9. Images of the city: Rome between imagination and reality - Francesco Pecoraro, Lo stradone; Valerio Mattioli, Remoria; Cristian Raimo, Roma. 

Vision, analysis and comment on Federico Fellini, Rome and Gianfranco Rosi, Sacro GRA.

10. Living and dwelling after the pandemic.

Images of the city: Megalopolis - Beijing and Bombay
Final exercise.


1. R. Sennett, Costruire e abitare, Milano, Feltrinelli, 2018; G. Agamben, Abitare e costruire in: https://www.quodlibet.it/giorgio-agamben-abitare-e-costruire; F. Barca, E. Giovannini, Quel mondo diverso. Da immaginare, per cui battersi, che si può realizzare, Roma Bari, Laterza, 2020.

2. G. Simmel, Le metropoli e la vita dello spirito (1903), Roma, Armando, 1995; W. Benjamin, Parigi, la capitale del XIX secolo (1935), in Id., I «passages» di Parigi, Torino, Einaudi, 2002; S. Kracauer, Dalla finestra, in Id., Strade a Berlino e altrove, Bologna, Pendragon, 2004, pp. 55-57.

R. Esposito, Istituzione, Bologna, il Mulino, 2021 e R. Bodei, Dominio e sottomissione. Schiavi, animali, macchine, Intelligenza Artificiale, Bologna, il Mulino, 2019 [selected passages from both books will be indicated in the lecture].

3. A. Appadurai, Modernità in polvere, Roma, Meltemi, 1996 [selected passages].; W. Benjamin, Infanzia berlinese intorno al Millenovecento, Torino, Einaudi, 2007; G. Perec, Specie di spazi (1974), Torino, Bollati Boringhieri, 1989.

M. Smargiassi, Between Decay and Decorum: Photographers' Awareness of the Urban Scene, https://cpcl.unibo.it/article/view/11884.

4. G. Simmel, Ponte e porta, in Id., Ponte e porta. Saggi di estetica, Bologna, Archetipo, 2011, pp. 1-6; S. Kracauer, Addio al Lindenpassage, Il sottopassaggio, in Id., Strade a Berlino e altrove, Bologna, Pendragon, 2004, pp. 32-39, 52-54; E. Coccia, Muri, Città, in Id., Il bene nelle cose, Bologna, Il Mulino, 2014, pp. 17-39; A. Somaini, Cronogrammi della metropoli. Clair, Ruttmann, Vertov, Ejzenštejn, in M. Vegetti (ed.), Filosofie della metropoli. Spazio, potere, architettura nel pensiero del Novecento, Roma, Carocci, 2009, pp. 153-182.

5. M. Romano, La piazza europea, Padova, Marsilio, 2015; M. Lassault, Hyper-lieux. Les nouvelles géographies politiques de la mondialisation, Paris, Seuil, 2017, pp. 41-61. O. De Leonardis, Servizio, in In un diverso welfare, Milano, Feltrinelli, 1998.

6. F. Careri, Walkscapes. Camminare come pratica estetica, Torino, Einaudi, 2006; Ch. Bailly, La grammatica generativa delle gambe, in Id., La frase urbana (2013), Torino, Bollati Boringhieri, 2016, pp. 22-41; Antonio Moresco, passim, cfr. Il mondo come apparizione, in L. Lombard, D. Luglio, a cura di, Uno scrittore visionario. Antonio Moresco, Milano, Effigie, 2019, pp. 180-200; Jirō Taniguchi, L’uomo che cammina (1991), Modena, Panini, 1999.

7. M. Foucault, Eterotopie, in Id., Estetica dell’esistenza, etica, politica, Milano, Feltrinelli, 2020, pp. 307-316; V. Trione, Effetto città. Arte, cinema, modernità, Milano, Bompiani, 2014; M. Jakob, Il paesaggio, Bologna, Il Mulino, 2009; G. Wajcman, Fênetre. Chroniques du regard et de l’intime, Lagrasse, Verdier, 2004.

R. Renzi, Guida per camminare all'ombra (1954): https://patrimonio.archivioluce.com/luce-web/detail/IL3000050484/1/guida-camminare-all-ombra.html?startPage=480

8. T. Maldonado, La speranza progettuale. Ambiente e società, Torino, Einaudi, 1992; J. Ballard, Il condominio (1975), Milano, Feltrinelli, 2003; R. Barthes, La tour Eiffel (1964), Milano, Abscondita, 2009.

9. F. Pecoraro, Lo stradone, Milano, Ponte alle Grazie, 2019; V. Mattioli, Remoria. La città invertita, Roma, Minimum fax, 2019; C. Raimo, Roma non è eterna: Vita, morte e bellezza di una città, Roma, Chiarelettere, 2021.

10. R. Sennett, La lotta per la città, in «Micromega», 2018, pp. 121-134; How should we live? Density in post-pandemic cities, Domus 1046, 2020 e Cities after coronavirus: how Covid-19 could radically alter urban life, The Guardian, 26 Mar 2020.

Hao Jingfang, Pechino pieghevole, Torino, ADD editore, 2020; Suketu Mehta, Maximum city. Bombay città degli eccessi, Torino, Einaudi, 2006; S. Metha, La vita segreta delle città (2016), Torino, Einaudi, 2016.

Teaching methods

The course aims to provide tools for deepening the discipline. The course will take place through lectures, seminars, exercises, visits.

Assessment methods

The exam is oral. The exam interview will focus on the topics discussed in classroom lessons and on the texts in the program, but it can also take the inspiration from any further study that the student will have presented orally during the lessons or in written form after the end of the course.

In detail:

- the verification of the teaching objective to acquire the main philosophical and social elaborations on the contemporary city and urban images, cultures and forms of life and the contribution the various forms of expression have provided to the experience of the places and to the understanding of urban phenomena will be implemented through presentations of texts or audiovisual materials agreed with the teacher within the course;

- the verification of the teaching objective of acquiring the tools to critically read and analyze the urban landscape and complex sites within it will be carried out through the elaboration of surveys on the ground through texts, films and creative artifacts;

- both verifications will be completed by the individual oral exam at the end of the course, which will include questions about the texts in the bibliography and on the various final works foreseen by the program.

The final grade will be determined on the basis of the following indicators:
1 - Knowledge of the subject matter covered in the lectures (from 0 to 6)
2 - Knowledge of the insights provided in the bibliography (from 0 to 6)
3 - Quality of presentation (0 to 6)
4 - Personal elaboration of the contents (from 0 to 6)
5 - Intermediate tests, exhibitions or papers (0 to 6)

Teaching tools

The bibliographies specific to the different parts of the course will be analyzed and acquired during the various lessons, starting with the tools available in the texts indicated in the program. The teaching material presented during the lessons is made available to the student in paper or electronic format via the internet, also following the access restrictions, according to the modalities that will be indicated at the beginning of the course.

Office hours

See the website of Andrea Borsari


Good health and well-being Reduced inequalities Sustainable cities Climate Action

This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.